Belle Meade Performance Trials Exceed Expectations

Belle Meade 14 trialsAllison Howell photoPerformance Trials bring great hounds, fit horses, enthusiastic people and big expectations. The pressure on the staff is huge. The pressure on the judges and guest huntsman is even bigger. This is the event we work toward all season. For many of us it is the high point of our entire hunt season.

So, when we say we had two of the best days of hunting we ever had, we do not take it lightly. We say it with appreciation. We say it with pride. We say it with gratitude for all the landowners who let us ride over 35,000 contiguous acres of hunt country. We say it with a lot of relief. When the expectations are so high, it is hard to meet them.

The Heartfelt Memories of a Foxhunter

Clarice TateSarah Dufton English photoIt was 1995 and I had no idea that my life would change forever. My friend, Katy Sheesley and I were at a meeting in Nashville comprised of professional women, and the meeting happened to seat us according to hobbies. Our table was marked, “Horse Back Riding.”  We sat together and I learned that she foxhunted. I had no idea that the hunting activity depicted in the traditional paintings and prints that I had seen and collected all my adult life did not just take place in England, but was a very active sport in the good old USA. Not only that, but that there were several foxhunting clubs in Tennessee. One thing led to another and a few weeks later we were riding trails at Panorama Farm in Leiper's Fork, TN because as a responsible foxhunter she wanted to see if I had the right stuff to hunt.

Hunting Dressage: The Flask Pass

foxdressage2.0Perhaps you and some friends have decided to taste all the entries in The Great Covertside Sip-Off.  You each have your flask filled with a different brew.  You are all is gathered on the edge of a sunny field, the quarry put to ground, and the huntsman calling the hounds.  Everyone is on perfectly behaved and trained horses that happily swing that left hip over or move one small step to the right so you can pass flasks.

Maybe for you; my reality is usually more like this.  The wind is blowing and things are flapping.  My horse, a youngster, is sometimes quite sure THIS time the cue to step right really means he should swing his haunches to the left and back up.  Then my friend’s horse has a crabby moment and makes a face.  Now how are we going to pass?

Tally Ho, Armadillos!

Derek Armadillo 1Inevitably the frozen ground puts an end to the fall hunt season in northern climes. All good things must come to an end. But wait, does it have to be so? What's this title that you see? Riding to hounds in pursuit of armadillos?

Well, yes. It's not quite what you might expect but indeed the rider is mounted. The hounds are smaller than the ones you usually ride behind. There is a quarry even though it doesn't look much like your beloved fox or the not-so-beloved coyote. There is plenty of excitement, a few dangers and it is live hunting with more risk for the hunter than for the hunted. And above all, the ground is not frozen and your fingers and toes are always warm.

Expect the Unexpected While Hunting

Cheryl BuxtonElise Ange photoIt has occurred to me on more than one occasion just what an unpredictable and rather exciting sport foxhunting can be. I used to be addicted to the show world but in hindsight those three minutes of adrenaline seem somewhat lame in comparison. I stopped and reflected on the many incidents that have happened to me and others in the field, mostly jolly good, but on occasion well…. some not so good!

If you ever have the fortune of sitting down with a group of foxhunters, you know that the tales of gallops and chases abound, and the jumps grow in size, hedges become wider, footing icier, fog thicker, and the rain comes down in sheets.  Then of course there are all of the incidentals- the occasional broken reins, stirrups and martingales that make successfully navigating a horse at speed a bit complicated. After all you can’t hop out of the ring, skip to the on-site tack shop and purchase replacements because your trailer is at the meet an hour’s ride away.

Come Celebrate Aiken!

Aiken Centennial small 1Photo courtesy Barry and Laura KosterAiken, South Carolina has long been known as a horse haven, where the streets are dirt and horses have their own stoplights.  In the heart of this bustling small southern town is a thoroughbred training ground that has seen the likes of Kelso, Pleasant Colony and Palace Malice become champions.  The very schooling track that served as a proving ground for these mighty racers ellipses the oldest Polo field in continuous use in the US and Aiken Polo Club celebrated its 131st season in 2013.  

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